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SD Sioux Tribes Announce Wind Power Initiative at Clinton Global Initiative

By Kelley Welf on June 27, 2013

On Friday, June 14, President Bill Clinton and leaders from six Sioux Indian Tribes announced a new wind power initiative, called Sioux Wind, which will harness South Dakota’s greatest natural resource and spur long-term development in the economically-depressed region.  The initiative was announced as a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action during the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago.

The invitation to announce this initiative is the direct result of a meeting Bob Gough of Intertribal COUP had with President Clinton at the Wind on the Wires Gala in December.  Bob, a WOW board member, along with the Intertribal COUP president Pat Spears, have attended the Clinton Global Initiative meetings in New York and Chicago since tribal wind power (through NativeEnergy) helped offset the carbon footprint of the first CGI meeting in 2005.  

During his brief time with the President at the photo session following the WOW gala, Bob picked up the conversation between CGI and COUP about the stranded wind resources in the Dakotas and the desire of the tribes in the Upper Missouri River to work together to develop and own the wind projects on their reservations.  The President fully appreciated the benefits that such development could have for the economies of some of the poorest communities in the U.S., and offered to work with the Dakota tribes.  

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Two weeks into the New Year, CGI staffer Kimberly Shoemaker called Bob to relate that the President wanted to develop several renewable energy commitments from Indian Country for the June CGI-America meeting in Chicago. Good to his word, CGI invited several tribal projects to submit commitments, with this large intertribal project becoming the President's expressed favorite, featuring the six tribal leaders and associated consultants and supporters as the final new commitment announcement to close the two day gathering. Bob shared that, "the distributed nature of this utility scale project across six reservations can demonstrate that it isn't the wind that is intermittent, but rather our collection system!"  

The proposed project could generate up to 1000 megawatts of electricity annually, from hundreds of wind turbines built on tribal land across South Dakota.  The Tribes stand to infuse up to $3 billion directly into the South Dakota economy.  The project will be funded by the sale of bonds by a new power authority called Multi-Tribal Power Authority.  The bonds are expected to be available to investors in about two years.  In the mean time, the Tribes have partnered with the crowdfunding platform Rally.org to seek funding and raise general awareness of the project before the project is ready to break ground and the bonds are ready for sale. Visit rally.org/siouxwind to learn more and donate.

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Representatives from the six tribes: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, and Yankton Sioux Tribe joined President Clinton on stage to announce their plans. "This has been a dream of intertribal collaboration that Intertribal COUP tribes have planned and worked on for over a decade, under the leadership of President Pat Spears, who passed away one year ago," Bob Gough noted.

This project will not require the use of the PTC, but will instead utilize Tribal Economic Development bonds that will allow for tribal ownership.  “The potential of this is staggering,” President Clinton said according to an article in the Argus Leader. “This is an amazing thing, and if it works, there are a lot of other tribal lands and a lot of other tribes out there who will be able to take this and make their contribution to our country’s future in a way that enables them finally to have a nongovernment-ready cash source […] to build a whole different economic future for their children and for the future of our country.”

The Sioux Wind tribes have been working on this for several years already and have secured support from numerous other organizations.  Significant pro bono support has been donated by law firm Arent Fox, LLP, where former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) (former chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development) co-chairs the Government Relations practice. Other supporters include Herron Consulting, LLC, Intertribal Council On Utility Policy, LIATI Group, the Bush Foundation and Northwest Area Foundation. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, is providing strategic counsel and nurturing the project until the new power authority is created.

Tags:  south dakota, tribes, sioux, wind, gala, clinton
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